Florida Sen. Marco Rubio launched a blistering attack against front-runner Donald Trump over his position on illegal immigration on Thursday, quickly accusing Trump of switching positions on illegal immigration for political gain.
The senator said that the New York billionaire talks tough on the issue now, but previously said 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney lost his race against President Barack Obama for saying illegal immigration could be solved by self-deportation.
"A lot of these positions that he's taken now are new to him," Rubio said during the debate in Houston.
Trump - who has won three out of four contests in the Republicans' selection of a presidential nominee and may reap big gains when 11 states make their choices on Tuesday - scoffed at Rubio's charge.
He said Romney lost in 2012 because he was a terrible candidate.
"Excuse me, he ran one terrible campaign," Trump said.
Rubio attacked Trump over a New York Times report that he hired people on HB-1 visas to work at his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort when 300 Americans had applied for the jobs.
Trump took credit for introducing illegal immigration into the debate, but Rubio challenged that, saying if he wants to make that claim he must also "acknowledge that, for example, you're only person on this stage that's ever been find for hiring people to work on your projects illegally."
"No, no, I'm the only one at this stage that's hired people," Trump shot back. "You haven't hired anybody. … You've had nothing but problems with your credit cards, etc."
"He hired workers from Poland," Rubio said, referring to the Times story.
Trump said that was "totally wrong," but Rubio urged people to look it up online.
"Fined $1 million for hiring Polish workers on one of his projects. He did it. That happened," Rubio said.
"I've hired tens of thousands of people over my lifetime. Tens of thousands," Trump said.
"Many from other countries instead of hiring Americans," Rubio said.
"Just be quiet. Let me talk," Trump said. "I've hired tens of thousands of people. He brings up something from 30 years ago, it worked out very well."
"Yeah, you paid $1 million," Rubio said.
"By the way, the laws were totally different," Trump said. "That was a whole different world."
"If he builds the wall the way he built Trump Tower, he'll be using illegal immigrant labor to do it," Rubio said.
The two then traded barbs, with Trump mentioning Rubio's past finances and Rubio bringing up the Trump University lawsuit.
"The second thing about the trade war, I don't understand," Rubio said, "because your clothes and the tie you wear are made in Mexico and in China. You'll be starting a trade war against your own clothes and suits."